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A room of one's own -- or, eight years inside a Faberg'e egg

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I lived in one room for eight years. Sounds a bit constricted, doesn't it? Especially when you consider that the kitchen was part of the room -- merely an insert in one wall containing a cabinet, a small sink, a thigh-high refrigerator that conked out every summer, and an assortment of electrical cooking appliances, the latter provided by me.

There was a little hallway when you entered, and off it was the bathroom. With its solid white fixtures from the '20s, Laura Ashley-type, hang-it-yourself wallpaper, and washable, home-installed carpet, it wasn't bad at all.

What truly amazed me about this apartment, the place in which I lived longer than anywhere else in my life, is how my feelings about it changed over time.

When I moved in I had just returned from three years in Rome. There, my living conditions had been varied and charming, but by no means always spacious or comfortable. A tiny nook on the 21st floor in New York that had some sense of stability about it possessed a certain appeal. And anyway, I told myself, I certainly wasn't going to be living in one room for more than a few months at the most!

The saving feature of this modest room was the view. Two mullioned windows in the north wall greeted you when you entered. The northern light that filled the room was enough to make geraniums bloom in January, and when it bounced off a glass tower two blocks away and streamed in as watery, reflected southern sun, it made me feel rich and pampered. And outside those windows was infinity.

Three states were visible from that small apartment. Connecticut lay in undulating green on the far side of the Throgs Neck Bridge, which could be clearly made out on most days. And if you opened the windows and leaned toward the west, you saw New Jersey at the end of 42nd Street, with the mighty Hudson in between. New York, of course, was all around.

But man cannot live by view alone.


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